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On Aesthetics, Zacatecas and Everything In-between: Utilizing Subject Headings from Special Collections Circulation Data to Assess and Inform . Emilie Hardman Houghton Library, Harvard University Susan Pyzynski Houghton Library, Harvard University. HOUGHTON LIBRARY.

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On Aesthetics, Zacatecas and Everything In-between: Utilizing Subject Headings from Special Collections Circulation Data to Assess and Inform

Emilie Hardman

Houghton Library, Harvard University

Susan Pyzynski

Houghton Library, Harvard University

houghton library
HOUGHTON LIBRARY
  • Houghton Library is Harvard University’s principal special collections library
    • 600,000 books
    • 10 million manuscripts
    • Millions of prints, photographs, ephemera
    • Collection strengths in American, English, and Continental history
  • Reading Room Statistics (FY 2011-2012)
    • 2,077 individual registered users
    • 6,037 visits
  • Strong Seminar Program (FY 2012-2013)
    • 229 seminars hosted
implementation of aeon
IMPLEMENTATION OF AEON
  • September 2010 Houghton implemented Atlas System’s archives/special collections circulation system
    • Allowed for collection and analysis of standardized data at a scale and with ease not previously available to us
  • Almost three years worth of data
    • Selected a piece to begin exploring
      • What could the now easily-examined subject headings of our circulated materials tell us about collection usage and the research interests of our patrons?
      • What could we do to respond to what we might learn?
previous efforts
PREVIOUS EFFORTS

Houghton Library Reading Room during a “bone feast” (holiday party), 1980s. Houghton Bridge may be seen in back right corner.

pursuing possibilities
PURSUING POSSIBILITIES
  • Data, not anecdotes!
  • Increased understanding
  • Predictive powers?
  • Illumination of collection strengths
  • Inform practices? Policies? More?
collection surveys
COLLECTION SURVEYS
  • Significant collection surveys in special collections
    • Manuscript Survey Project (Bancroft, Berkeley)
    • Mellon Special Collections Materials Survey (Columbia)
    • Unprocessed Collections Survey Project (U. Michigan)
    • MASC Surveys and the Collection Survey of 2013 (Harvard)
  • Offer perspectives on the collections, but not necessarily their usage
our goals
OUR GOALS

An agile, exploratory project

  • Less effort and planning required
  • See where the data take us

Utilizing work we have already done

  • Cataloging
  • Data already collected and maintained

Focused on use

  • Highlights subject headings as significant and illustrative of patron interests
subject headings
SUBJECT HEADINGS
  • Number of projects through the 1980s in circulating collections
    • Used to weed
    • Used to identify areas for collection development
  • Recent OSLC OhioLINK Collection and Circulation Analysis
    • Provides a broad picture of collections, could perhaps offer insights into subject usage by patrons
  • Critiques of bias and application we must be aware of
    • Headings may have cultural biases
    • Headings may be incompletely applied
our approach
OUR APPROACH
  • Ran report in Aeon to collect all patron requests from September 2010-December 2012
    • Cleaned data (missing and incorrectly entered)
    • Left with 21,017 unique bibliographic records
      • Ran against Cognos in increments of 1,000
      • Exported to Excel and cleaned again
        • Resulted in 46,067 subject headings
  • Developed codebook
    • 35 master categories with definitions, sample LCSH headings and parameters for application
      • Coding all subject headings
some discoveries
SOME DISCOVERIES
  • Subject access seems to be significant to circulation
    • Our circulated sample: 14, 447 bibliographic records with subject headings and 6,540 without
      • approximately 70% with headings
    • Our collection broadly: 244,260 records out of 473,086 without subject access
      • approximately 50%
  • Items cataloged within the past 10 years are much more likely to provide subject access
  • Prevalent subjects of circulated materials confirm both anecdotal evidence and offer surprises
future prospects
FUTURE PROSPECTS

Many interesting and potentially useful applications

  • Better understand patron needs in various academic areas
  • Better serve our seminar program
  • Better serve remote users
  • Inform collecting policies
  • Inform cataloging and accessioning practices
  • Inform digitization and delivery
concluding thoughts
Concluding Thoughts

Still very exploratory, but some key considerations have emerged from the work already.

  • How might we use a project like this to foster a culture of agile assessment?
  • Archives and Special Collections may have a different angle on using subject analysis to develop their collections.
  • Adding subject headings at the point of accession is an opportunity to provide greater access and encourage circulation.
  • Investment of cataloger time and effort in applying robust subject access seems to be a verifiably valuable service.
thank you
THANK YOU

Emilie Hardman

ehardman@fas.harvard.edu

Susan Pyzynski

pyzynski@fas.harvard.edu